1. You Can't Out-Give God
You can't out-give God. If you remember nothing else from this talk remember that. You can't out-give God, which is a summary of verse 18 and 19: "I am well supplied having received the gifts you sent, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Paul says you met my one need and God is going to meet all your needs. You can't out-give God.
I began to learn this when I went to train with the Josh McDowell Ministry in America. I had to pay for two return airfares. I didn't have the £1200 but I bought them in faith. The next day someone put that amount through my door. The day I landed in Texas a $10,000 cheque was given to meet my need for the year. You can't out-give God. Now please don't get the wrong idea - this is not about having a holiday in America that you can't afford – no it's about giving and its blessings and that you can't out-give God. Isn't that encouraging?! Let me add a further encouragement from Philippians.
I thank God for you. You may not have been expecting to hear that, but I genuinely do – for your partnership in the gospel, as Paul puts it in chapter 1, for your giving and serving. Yes, it's God who gives the growth but he wants us to be involved in giving and sharing in our partnership in the gospel. And that means not just giving our treasure but also our time and talents in response to all God has done for us in Christ. You see we're to share the love of Christ with each other and with those who don't know him in the Spirit's power. And love is more than a noun – it's a verb; it's more than a feeling – it's caring, sharing, giving, helping and sacrificing. In Hebrews 2.14-15, we read of the ultimate in sharing. Jesus Christ, God the Son, shared in our humanity. If he hadn't we'd all be lost. In response, how can we not be generous givers and willing to share?
The materially poor church at Philippi had been generous and willing to partner with Paul to support his preaching and church planting ministry. And this letter is a thank you letter from Paul to them. He thanks them for their sharing in his troubles (v14) and for their sharing in the matter of giving and receiving, sending him aid again and again (v15&16). And God doesn't want us to stop giving and growing as a church, in fact under God there needs to be a re-growing of JPC which demands a renewed vision – all for the sake of the whole gospel, of this needy region, where less than 1% of the population are in Bible-believing churches, and world, for his glory. The question is will we again share in what God is calling us to do?
Now the Philippians, v10, have been concerned for Paul and his gospel ministry but recently have had no opportunity to show it until now. Here at JPC this Giving Review is an opportunity to show your concern by giving regularly and generously to the work here and overseas by filling in the response forms that came with your giving literature. If you'd like some help in managing your money we offer the excellent and free CAP Money Course, which starts at JPC on Monday 24 Feb.
John Wesley said, "Earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can." You see the vision for growth God has given us as a church and through church planting will be costly, even though any future church planting will need to be lower cost than before and done in partnership with the other Jesmond Trust churches, but as we'll see from verse 17 to 20 there'll be many blessings too. Church decline might be cheaper but far more costly spiritually. So, will we continue to be like the Philippians, generous and willing partners in the gospel, or like the other churches who didn't partner financially in Paul's ministry? Verse 15: "When I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only."
We live in urgent times – the preaching of the whole gospel is under threat - as this past week's ban on Franklin Graham preaching the gospel by all the previously booked UK venues shows. We need to wake up and pray. God is sovereign and bigger than these challenges. And there are fresh gospel opportunities in this new decade, not least in church planting. The gospel brings hope and change, and under God we need to be working not just for this generation but for future generations too.
But we also need to learn the secret of true contentment, otherwise we'll always be struggling to grow in our generosity and willingness to partner financially in gospel ministry. So secondly
2. The Secret of True Contentment
The world says that one secret of contentment lies in having things. Adverts tell us that we need 'retail therapy'. But that's ultimately a lie. You can have everything you've ever wanted and still feel desperately empty. Paul learned that the secret of being content wasn't things but rather a relationship with Jesus Christ. Verse 11 and 12:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."
What's the secret he's learned? What's the secret of being content we're to learn? That (v13): "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We can meet all circumstances with contentment through Christ. Who needs to hear and learn that? You're a Christian but life's not easy. Well you can do everything through Christ who gives you strength. In fact, that's what God wants you to learn through the situation you're facing now. Perhaps you're not yet a believer. You know you don't have true contentment. Well why not trust Christ and begin to learn the secret of being content in him in every situation. You see another myth the world puts out is that all you need is within yourself. But Paul is clear. We're not self-sufficient but Christ sufficient. No matter what challenges lie ahead, Jesus is big enough to meet them. To be content in need or in plenty, in whatever situation we face isn't the product of human skill. The secret isn't us, it's Jesus in us! The strength that Christ gives is sufficient for anything we face in life. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
In Christ Paul also had discipline of self to be content with what he had and a deep trust in God to provide what he really needed. Now note that Paul says he'd learned to be content. True contentment is not something we have overnight. He'd learned the secret test by test. Contentment doesn't come easily. It takes discipline. For example, we must decide not to covet - like Paul in verses 11 and 17 who didn't covet the Philippians' gifts. Covetousness had been a problem for him but in Christ his heart was weaned away from 'things' and became wholly God's. In fact, the opposite of contentment is covetousness. But remember - the person who has Christ has everything.
Paul had also learned to be content because he'd learned to trust God. He was contented because God is trustworthy. Verse 19 says he will meet our need to the full. His supply won't be limited to the size of our need but according to his riches in Christ. Indeed, one factor which makes for contentment is the generosity of others as the Lord uses the resources of one to meet the needs of another. But true contentment also leads to generous sharing, so
3. The Blessing of Gospel Partnership
Did you know that partnership in the gospel brings blessing not only to others, but also to the givers and it blesses God.
First, we're told that the Lord uses generous Christians to help meet the needs of others and his work. Christian sharing in gospel ministry is a blessing to others. Paul writes (v10): "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me."
Secondly, Christian sharing in gospel ministry also brings blessing to those who share. Now we give in response to what Christ has given and done for us, we can't earn our salvation. That comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything received is a gift of God's grace. But consistent, generous and sacrificial giving lays up treasure in heaven. Generous giving isn't all about meeting the needs of others and of JPC but also about the spiritual growth of the givers and the spiritual interest that will be credited to their account. Paul says so, verse 17: "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit." You see Paul was chiefly concerned with how their gift would affect them spiritually. He sees their gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. It's a deposit in the bank of heaven that will multiply at compound interest to their advantage. The Lord keeps the books and will never fail to pay one spiritual dividend unlike fluctuating stock markets and pension funds. Their generosity was an indicator of their spiritual health. So how is your spiritual health? Are you laying up treasure in heaven or on earth?
Thirdly generous Christian sharing is a gift to God as well. It blesses God. In verse 18, Paul abandons the language of accounting and takes up the language of worship. The Philippians' gifts are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. In the Bible the fragrant offering or burnt offering expresses obedient consecration to God, and God delights in his people dedicated to himself. So, Paul teaches here that when Christians take note of Christian needs and generously sacrifice to meet them, it is, for God, the burnt offering all over again, and he delights to accept it.
And finally, verse 19, what the Philippians have given to God will be amply repaid by him from the limitless resource of his riches in Christ Jesus. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Paul says you met the one need that I have but God will meet all your needs according to his riches in Christ. Through the Philippians Paul's need had been met by God. And now Paul says that God will meet all their needs though not their 'greeds'. And God will meet them according to, or as befits his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, not merely out of his riches. Do you see the difference? A millionaire may donate £1000 out of his riches but compared to his wealth it's tiny. God's giving is in proportion to his infinite resources, it's according to his glorious riches in Christ. We needn't be in any way afraid of giving generously and proportionately to God's work here at JPC and to world mission, whatever our income. Partnership in the gospel does bring blessing. We can trust God. We can't out-give God. God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Glory be to our God and Father forever and ever. Amen.